Africanized Bee Hysteria!

In my journey to find out more about Bees I found it interesting that a lot of articles on “Africanized” bees kept coming up. So I researched everything I could about the “Africanized” Honeybee. Most of the headlines would read something like “How the Africanized bee is endangering pollination in the United States” , “How to kill Africanized Bees” or “When Bees go bad”. Which really stoked my curiosity about them. So I purchased a book titled Killer Bees by Mark L. Winston which covered the arrival of this mysterious, highly feared species of Bee in the United States. The book itself was very interesting. It mostly talked about the genetics of this Hybrid subspecies of Honeybee and how it has impacted Beekeeping on a national level. In chapter 6 of the book titled “The Process of Africanization” He states and I quote “ One aspect of the killer bee story that has generated considerable controversy among scientists has been the nomenclature.” Which refers to the devising or choosing of names for things, especially in science or other disciplines . I also found this term perplexing in the scheme of Beekeeping within these United States, due to the labeling of these bees with no genetic testing done. It seems as if some use this term to label colonies that become aggressive which is something that happens naturally and for some many different reasons.

In my research and when talking to “experienced” beekeepers this term is thrown around quite often with no sense of reasoning. It’s as if people cannot see the blatant racism/bigotry in the term.

It was also stated in the book that “the term does not distinguish between the bees in Africa and the bees in the Americas”. Why is that? Inherently in these United States we like to label. We label people based on our perceptions of their behavior, race, religion, lifestyle, religions, sex and the list can go on and on. For the most part when labeling an individual we aren’t addressing the biological and chemical makeup of an individual but what we perceive of them based on our own unconscious biases. Just as labeling human beings we have come to a place where labeling different species of bees has been approached very much in the same way. The difference in the descriptions of different species of Bees play a role in how we as Americans think, feel and respond to the “Africanized Killer Bee”.

Can you tell the difference between these two bees just by looking at them? Which one is Africanized and which one is European?

Of Course not, but you may guess that one has been “Africanized” if it moves around nervously and aggressively wants to sting you. If you have read most of the articles on “Africanized” Bees that I have. But I challenge you to think further into this labeling of one of the most efficient and proficient insects in the world.
In an article titled “The Africanized Bee Myth” the writer states “ The hysteria over African honeybees is just that, hysteria.” I tend to agree with him.

If you are a trained Beekeeper you know that there are many reasons a colony may become aggressive. Here are some of those reasons:

  • Low Queen production
  • Other insect infestation
  • Disease infections
  • Low food supply
  • Cloudy days
  • Too much inspection / hive disturbance
  • Overheating

Overall, I just want us all to be mindful in labeling hives because it could be the difference between life and death for these colonies. Some Beekeepers prefer to work with “Africanized” hives due to their ability to fight against most diseases that can plague colonies like varroa mites, CCD- Colony Collapse Disorder, American Foulbrood, Nosema etc. So in the words of Mr. Homegrown “Instead of demonizing Africanized colonies, we should see a possible answer to colony collapse disorder. As permaculturalists like to say, in the problem is a solution.”

Happy Beekeeping!!

Referenced Material:

Killer Bees: The Africanized Honey Bee in the Americas by Mark L. Winston
Study: Differences between European and African Honey Bees by University of Florida
Article: The Africanized Bee Myth published by Root Simple
Article: The Myth of the Killer Bees by Sarah Plelan
Study: Confronting Introduced Species: a form of xenophobia? By Daniel Simberloff

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